Obituaries » Deacon John 'Coach' Payton

Deacon John 'Coach' Payton

January 21, 1935 - January 27, 2018

Service Date: February 3, 2018

Funeral Home Comeaux Community Funeral Chapel

Interment Forest Lawn Funeral Home

Church Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

Saturday (02/03): Visitation – 9AM, Funeral Service – 11AM, Mt. Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; Interment – Forest Lawn Memorial Park

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John Payton was born on January 21, 1935 in Livingston, Texas to the late Robert and Margaret Payton-Freeman. The oldest of four children, he graduated from Dunbar High School in 1952, where he excelled in four sports.

He then went on to Prairie View A&M University, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1956 and his Master’s Degree in 1964. While at Prairie View, Payton participated in three sports: football, basketball, and track. He still holds the school’s all-time rushing record of 3,703 yards and is the second leading rusher in Prairie View’s football history, averaging 143 yards a game. A two-time football All-American, he was instrumental in helping his school win the 1953 National Championship by defeating Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic. Payton signed with the Chicago Bears, but an injury during his senior year prevented him from honoring his contract.

Payton’s multi-faceted educator/ coach career covered fifty-seven years. In 1956, he teamed with future ABA/ NBA basketball standout Zelmo Beatty and led Scott High School in Woodville, Texas to two consecutive state basketball titles in the prestigious Prairie View Interscholastic League. Coach Payton’s basketball team went 77-7 over two years and his football team went 15-5 over the two years. 

He married the love of his life, Ms. Dolly DeJean on December 21, 1963. 

In 1958, Coach Payton continued his career with a twelve-year span as a teacher and coach at Dunbar Junior High school for one year, and Charlton-Pollard High School for eleven years here in Beaumont. His C-P basketball team won district championships in 1962 and 1964; and in 1964 won the state championship. As the head track coach, Coach Payton brought home three UIL Regional titles. As the offensive coordinator of the football team, the team was a State Semi-finalist with a 10-1 record in 1962 and a UIL Regional finalist in 1969. 

In 1970, Coach Payton moved on to Lamar University to serve as an assistant football and track coach, becoming the first Black coach in the school’s history. He served as the interim head football coach in 1980, academic advisor, professor in the Health and Kinesiology Department, and as assistant to the Athletic Director, Coach Larry Tidwell. Thanks to Coach Tidwell, Coach Payton was recognized as one of Lamar’s Legends in 2010. Coach Payton retired from Lamar University after forty-three years of service, where the Academic Success Center is named for him in the Football Athletic Complex. 

Coach Payton extended his love of sports to that of an official. He officiated four State Boys’ Basketball Tournaments, the last in 1991, and was given the State’s Distinguished Service Award for Basketball Officials in 1992. He also continued to officiate high school football games.

Coach Payton wrote several articles on coaching techniques including “Coaching the Running Backs,” which was published in the Texas Coach magazine in 2002. Payton received numerous honors and awards: the Texas Southern University Ex-Letterman Association’s Coach of the Year Award (1963-1964); awarded Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s Achievement Award (1971-1972); inducted into the Prairie View Sports Hall of Fame (1988); the Ex-Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Hall of Honor (1988); presented the Livingston Independent School District Outstanding Graduate Award (1991); inducted into the Houston Prairie View Alumni Athletic Purple and Gold Club (1993); inducted into the Livingston Dunbar Hall of Fame (1998); honored by the Tyler County Heritage Society (1999); inducted into the Southeast Texas coaches Association Hall of Honor (2000); the Lamar University Cardinal Hall of Honor (2004); the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame (2004); the Black Sports Hall of Fame (2005); honored by the Magnolia Baptist Church for “Fifty Years in Education” (2006); presented the Lamar University Merit Award for Distinguished Teaching (2008); honored with the “John Earl Payton Day”, by the Livingston Dunbar High School Alumni Association (2011); inducted into the Charlton Pollard High School Hall of Fame (2014); and awarded the William “Billy” Nicks Legend Award at Prairie View A&M University (2014). On August 13, 2017, the Lamar University Athletic Department honored Coach Payton in a special church service during which Mayor Becky Ames proclaimed it “Coach John Payton Day”.

John Payton was a faithful member of Magnolia Missionary Baptist Church for more than fifty years, where he served in the Deacon and Trustee Ministries, Brotherhood Ministry, Adult Choir, Men’s Choir, the Finance Committee, and as a teacher in Sunday School. He was a charter member of the Church’s Education Auxiliary, where the Annual Scholarship is named the “Deacon John and Deaconess Dolly Payton Education Scholarship”. Brother Payton was a member of the NAACP and a charter member of the Beaumont Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. 

John Payton was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters; Margaret Bell and Carolyn Hamilton; a brother; Robert Payton; three brothers in law; Andrew Bell, Solomon Hamilton, and Arthur DeJean (Celeste); and one nephew Anthony Bell. 

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Dolly DeJean Payton; one daughter Janice Meeks; one son Gehrig Payton (Larissa); three sisters in law: Beverly Payton, Doris DeJean, and Lula DeJean; one brother in law Alvin DeJean (Brenda), six grandchildren: Jai Calloway (Lorenzo), Jeralyn Johnson, Erica Salmeron (Jorge), John Payton (Danielle), Taryn Garriet (Matthew), Tyria Monroe; nine great grandchildren: Payton Collins, Jy St. John Calloway, Alexandria Gilbert, Brianna Johnson, Gregory “Trey” Johnson III, Aria Payton, Savanna Fore, Sanaa Fore, Sophia Garriet; three nieces: Pamela Payton, Chelsea Bennett DeJean, Charli Bennett; three nephews: Shannon Hamilton (Jeanine), Tara Payton, Brandon DeJean; and many other relatives, church members, peers, former students, and friends.

On Saturday, January 27, 2018 at the fruitful age of 83 John Payton passed away from his earthly labor to began his heavenly reward at St. Luke Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas.

On Saturday, February 3, 2018 there will be a visitation at 9 a.m. followed by the Celebration of Life service at 11 a.m. at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church located at 3920 W Cardinal Dr. in Beaumont. John Payton will take his earthly rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park under the professional care and direction of Comeaux Community Funeral Chapel.

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